Modernizing governing bodies worldwide is a pressing need and includes a growing obligation to provide accessible and transparent digital experiences for all citizens to address the inefficiencies and limitations of legacy systems. However, modernization is a complex process that requires agencies to balance the return on investment (ROI) of legacy hardware and institutional knowledge with the need to comply with regulations and meet sustainability goals. The Maryland State Department of Assessments & Taxation (SDAT) is an excellent example of how modernization can be achieved without a complete organizational overhaul.

Addressing the inefficiencies and limitations with government legacy systems

During the pandemic, Government departments across the US realized how brittle their internal processes were and the extent to which they rely on legacy technology and the skills and tasks of seasoned employees. The Maryland State Department of Assessments & Taxation (SDAT) was no exception, and like many other organizations worldwide, it heavily relied on paper documents. Every year, Maryland SDAT IT and other associate teams from the State of Maryland send more than 10 million critical documents to all commercial entities in the state. These are tax notices that must be sent to Maryland residents for things like fishing licenses, sporting permits and tax notifications for businesses. Modernizing these document systems was the sole feasible solution to comply with global regulations and enhance user satisfaction.

Why document modernization is so complicated

Unfortunately for Maryland SDAT, creating new forms, updating current ones and distributing these documents relied on legacy technology in the form of an unsupported post-script document builder that only three staff members knew how to operate effectively. Even minor changes to the documentation necessitated multi-week, high-touch engagements, which resulted in a significant consumption of valuable daily resources.

Maryland SDAT is not alone in this regard. Numerous contemporary printing systems operate on legacy hardware dating back to the early era of computer architecture and rely heavily on institutional knowledge. Over time, these systems expand organically, and upgrading or extracting them becomes increasingly challenging. Given the considerable investment required to maintain such systems, the rip-and-replace modernization approach is impractical, particularly for government services operating on tight budgets.

Preserving the ROI of legacy hardware and incorporating the knowledge of existing employees is crucial as it allows organizations to make the most of their systems while modernizing them to meet current standards. These agencies can’t tear out old systems and retrain their workforce for technology that hasn’t come to the end of its expected lifecycle. However, with a global shift in how documents are handled and how consumers consume information, modernization is needed. As such, Maryland SDAT required a solution that would enable them to leverage current modernization trends while retaining their legacy systems.

The flexibility of Adobe Experience Manager Forms

Like other state and local government and educational departments, Maryland SDAT is heavily regulated and relies on document-based processes. As a result, they required a solution to address their inefficient document-creation process, comply with new requirements for document accessibility, ensure control, security, and governance over documents at scale and meet essential sustainability imperatives by producing fewer printed documents or becoming completely paper-free.

Adobe Experience Manager Forms was selected as the preferred choice for Maryland SDAT due to the flexibility and capabilities of its product. However, Adobe, on its own, could not integrate with Maryland SDAT’s legacy technology. IBM Consulting, a long-time strategic partner of Adobe, was selected as the most suitable partner as they assured Maryland SDAT they could create an interface to seamlessly integrate legacy data sources and printing methods without necessitating modernization of those sources.

The resulting solution accomplished the goal set forth by Maryland SDAT. The solution “fixes the middle” by decentralizing both the front and back end, enabling them to communicate efficiently to create a seamless, controlled, modern ecosystem for document generation. The front end is modern, with all the capabilities a user might expect, including accessibility, multi-language support, and digital signatures, but the back end remains unchanged.

Intelligent document transformation yields results

Maryland SDAT successfully achieved digital transformation by leveraging intelligent document transformation services provided by IBM and Adobe’s flexible technology. This approach enabled them to modernize their processes without undergoing a complete organizational overhaul, resulting in strengthened business governance and control. Maryland SDAT has now:

  • Successfully implemented a future-friendly and modernized solution for its users and document creation time has been significantly reduced from weeks and months to almost instantaneous.
  • Been able to consolidate a holistic view of its document management ecosystem, enabling greater efficiency and risk mitigation, particularly in highly regulated environments.
  • Eliminated IT overhead and streamlined the document creation process, providing regulated industries with a self-sufficient way to adopt standard approaches and ensure more rigorous version control, a critical benefit for the public sector, resulting in an improved and trustworthy experience for citizens.
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